A young woman in Southern California struggles with the agony of her sister’s death from a car accident.
Sixteen-year-old Leo’s favorite person was her older sister, Nina, whose outspoken, funny persona endeared her to many. In a series of chronologically reversed vignettes over the course of the year since Nina’s death, ending with one that takes place just hours before the accident that takes her life, Benway presents a nuanced, realistic portrait of the losses experienced by those closest to Nina—Leo; their mother, father, and stepmother; and Nina’s boyfriend, East. The novel’s structure is an interesting and mostly successful narrative technique: While the movement of time can be a little difficult to track, the dates that preface each chapter, labeled in terms of where they fall in relation to the accident, help to keep the timeline from becoming too confusing so readers can focus on the moving exploration of grief in all its unpredictable messiness. Authentic, often sarcastically funny dialogue and texts bring a lightness and grim humor to interactions Leo has with East and others. Her divorced parents and stepmother are poignantly developed secondary characters, and the intricate dynamics of Leo’s relationships with each of them underscore the ripple effect that occurs in families following a tragic loss. All the main characters seem to be White and middle class.
An intelligent, compassionate examination of a family enduring a nightmare.(Fiction. 13-18)